RPG Review #91: Phantom Brave

NuMetalManiak
IT'S THE FINAL COUNTDOWN! Well not really, but we are egging on to the number 100 and now we have only 10 RPGs that I handpick to play, and this is #91. Woohoo. Starting with 10. This one certainly took awhile to complete. It's Nippon Ichi's Phantom Brave, a tactical role-playing game. This had several re-releases, but I played the original PS2 version of the game.

Gameplay: The overall gameplay is that of a tactical game, but without any grid or anything like that. It's free-movement, characters have a set amount of DM to move in whichever direction, which may or may not be affected by the terrain. Just move somewhere, then do an action, attacking basically has the majority of commands, which all have different names and different SP values, which level up upon using them. There's different kinds of values, magic comes in fire, wind, and water (lightning is just non-elemental), while other attacks use elements such as Nature or Time/Space. These also factor in to the characters and items being used. It's also possible to throw or grab...basically anything in the entire game. So you can just pick up not just weapons on the ground, but items such as weeds, trees, pillars, allies, and enemies, and use their special skills against the enemies.

Perhaps the most important thing to remember about battling is that you start off with one character, your main one. She has the ability to Confine phantoms to objects, by doing so, it brings them into the playing field. Depending on the object, different stats are changed. Also an important thing to note, is that a phantom can only be confined for a given number of turns, basically how long they have actions. When it's expired, the phantom is removed from the battlefield, and depending on their obtain rate, the item they confined to may be retrieved as well. One other thing to note is that battlefields are boundless. It is possible for enemies or phantoms to be knocked out of bounds, removing them from play. This actually increases enemy levels, making them challenging, along with the fact that some enemies and characters cannot go out of bounds. Also factor in what the terrain is, since some terrain tends to be slippery or even bouncy.

Besides battling, you have your home base known as Phantom Isle. Basically you can do pretty much anything here, create, summon, store, or name new phantoms, then modify their stats. It's also possible to hurt or kill your own phantoms for fun. To help with modification and customization, there's a few character classes that help. You can buy and sell items from merchants (Bordeaux is the currency), heal your characters with Healers, give them new titles with Titlists, sharpen weapons using Blacksmiths (uses something called Mana, gained in battles), combine characters and items with Fusionists (also uses Mana), organize skills with Witches, and create and enter random dungeons using Dungeon Monks. There's a limit to the amount of characters AND items that are on Phantom Isle though. But with this amount of customization at your fingertips, you bet I spent a whole lot of time doing it in-between the story. And that's why it took me awhile to get through the game. Grade: A

Characters: Two main characters in the game are Marona and Ash. Marona is the main character, a charming young girl who works as a Chroma (basically a freelancer) and always wants to help and be a good girl in many ways. Ash is her special phantom guardian, caught in limbo but willing to watch and protect Marona at all costs. He has this weird catch phrase "You'll go no further. For her sake, I will not fail!", and he owes Marona's parents (who died with him) a great deal for allowing him to protect Marona. The rest of the characters I will describe in the plot section, but most of them tend to look at Marona like she's evil, when she isn't. Oh, and the remakes of this game do include new characters, and if you look at the post-game content, expect to see cameos from Laharl and co. from Disgaea, as well as other Nippon Ichi characters as bonus bosses and recruitables. Grade: B

Plot: Ah, I love a plot that's divided in chapters and episodes. The prologue has Ash along with Marona's parents, Haze and Jasmine, working as Chromas. In the aptly named Island of Evil, they meet their demise at the hands of a powerful demon, and Haze has only enough strength to bring Ash back as a phantom. As such, Ash is sworn to protect Marona.

Chapter 1: A Jill-of-all-trades
Episode 1: The Possessed: A teenage Marona tries to help out a community who's worried about a thief and a member of the White Wolf Army. Said member is actually a stupid werewolf impersonating the real leader. Marona gets a cheap payment and also unfortunately gets yelled at by the owl residents for being possessed by phantoms.
Episode 2: Walnut: Marona accepts another job from some owl lady, and she also has a run-in with a certain guy named Walnut. Now, Walnut is the reason I'm playing this game, because he actually was in the game Soul Nomad & The World Eaters as Endorph. Here, he's much more of a jerk, considering himself a rival to Marona. He even steals the reward from Marona, and gets to convince the owl lady she's bad, which, well, is bad.
Episode 3: Meeting Putty: Ash gets a visitor from a man named Canary, who wishes to have a certain thing freed from captivity. Turns out it's something called Putty, which is a weird thing that doesn't communicate very well. Putty upon being freed actually trolls poor Canary, while Ringmaster Hamm, a circus guy, takes Putty back.
Episode 4: A Friend: A rather important chapter. Ash and Marona journey to their new client, where they meet their daughter, Castile, a bed-ridden ill girl. Marona makes friends with her real easily. Meanwhile, Walnut's plotting his next move, and a large warrior gets rid of an exceptionally demonic monster.
Episode 5: Scarlet the Brave: Marona gets a job from Count Malt, an elderly rabbit creature, who wishes to find a legendary warrior named Scarlet the Brave. Marona ends up finding some random zombie and thinks its Scarlet, but it obviously isn't. She still gets a good reward though.
Episode 6: Unexpected Reward: Getting a job from President Hogg of the Bamboo Co. Marona sets out to a seemingly dangerous place filled with monsters. Turns out the Putties are creating monster images to avoid being driven from their homes. In response, Marona lies to President Hogg about dragons living on the island, and his plans were cancelled.
Episode 7: The Rainbow Bird: This chapter takes place on the Island of Evil. Marona tries to buy Phantom Isle from Sienna, a woman who runs a bottlemail business on Clutter Haven. She's competing against an anthropomorphic shark dude named Cauldron, and he's got the Ravens and the Fighting Beasts as his allies. Walnut is also involved. Several unique faces are among the human enemies. Marona also runs into Raphael, leader of the White Wolf Army, as soon as she reaches the Rainbow Bird, which is the main objective. She duels Raphael, but it doesn't matter, as Raphael finds her honorable and lets her have it, only for Walnut to make his move. After being defeated, Walnut is ridiculed, even though Marona tries to help him, and the Rainbow Bird flies away. Marona then gets the deed to own Phantom Isle!

Chapter 2: Expanding Horizons
Episode 8: Count Malt is Shaken: A filler chapter where Count Malt wants Marona to inspect the seal in an icy land. The seal turns out to be broken, and some history about Scarlet the Brave is passed on. We also get a reward, and apparently Putty has escaped from Ringmaster Hamm and is hiding in Marona's house.
Episode 9: Duel Duelists: This chapter takes place in a desert region. Marona is hired to get rid of Raphael who's terrorizing the island, but finds the cursed stupid werewolf from before impersonating the real Raphael, who also shows up. Despite doing her job, Marona is still ridiculed for not getting rid of "Raphael" but rather an impostor, so the real Raphael makes the village elder pay for that. Also Putty gets mischievous and sends a gift from Castile to Marona into another dimension, and the big warrior from before, Sprout, makes another appearance.
Episode 10: Putty's Mischief: Castile mentions she had a brother named Faded, and Putty is dropped off there. While Marona and Ash are off to their client, Castile uses sign language to communicate with Putty. Marona's client is Cauldron, who wishes to make peace with her and help with a certain weirdo who's trying to be nice to a bunch of monsters. Said weirdo is Canary, who eventually gets chased away by the monsters and then saved by Marona. As such, Cauldron vows to be another protector. Meanwhile, Walnut's trying to find work, and the putties are in danger.
Episode 11: Paradise Saved?: President Hogg now realizes that Verdant Guardiana, home of the putties, is still gonna be the place to keep his business running. Raven Captain Drab is the main hire to terrorize the putties here. Marona saves them all.
Episode 12: For Castile: If you can't tell, well, Castile's been kidnapped, and Marona's gonna save her. But she's not alone. Walnut accepts a job to save Castile too, and as it turns out, Walnut is actually Faded (geez how many names does this guy go by?) and Castile's brother.

Chapter 3: The Shadow of Sulphur
Episode 13: Once Sacred Sword: Putty gives back an important photo for Marona to give Ringmaster Hamm. In the meantime, Marona finds out that people in Windmill Promontory are fearful of the great demon Sulphur's return. Sprout reappears in this scene too, and we know all about his motives for revenge.
Episode 14: Operation Desert Rescue: Drab and the Fighting Beasts try to be manly against the many minions of Sulphur, but are easily defeated. Marona comes to their rescue.
Episode 15: Sienna's Request: Sienna asks Marona to help Count Malt, but not to tell him about her client. She helps Count Malt out in a blizzard.
Episode 16: Sibling Enmity: Ringmaster Hamm wants Marona to help his brother President Hogg who is stuck inside his building as Sulphur's minions attack the Bamboo Co. Marona also realizes that Sulphur was behind the deaths of her parents, and why Ash didn't tell her before. Meanwhile, Cauldron advertises Marona, and Walnut gets triggered when he finds out Marona works for free.
Episode 17: The Shadow Resurrected: Marona gets a letter from an unknown client to come to the Island of Evil. That client is Walnut, out for revenge. When beaten, it is revealed that the power that sealed Sulphur is the same power that would bring him back, and that Walnut actually has the same power Scarlet the Brave has. Sienna then has a rescue for Ash and Marona.

Final Chapter: Gathering of Braves
Episode 18: Battle Plan: It is finally revealed that Sienna was secretly Scarlet the Brave the whole time, no longer able to fight due to her leg injury. Sulphur's power can be opened into the world of Ivoire (that's the setting) for him and his shadows to strike anytime. Marona proposes a plan to actually close the gate and rallies some troops, though some are still skeptical about her. Count Malt and Sienna reunite, and Castile and a group of Putties are also going to be involved in the battle plan, all on account of Castile communicating in sign language. Some of the more skeptical warriors get beaten, but will come back later on.
Episode 19: Warrior's Bonds: A continuation of the previous episode. Several former foes ally with Marona to help her out.
The Final Episode: Goodbye: Unfortunately the White Wolf Army has been cursed, which includes Raphael. While he is freed and he gives his weapon up, he realizes he isn't strong enough. Marona reaches Sprout, who fights and presumably kills Sulphur, but he lets his guard down and Sulphur starts possessing him too. After fighting him, Sprout then stabs himself to kill Sulphur, but the stupid demon just won't die so Marona has to fight him now. Only yet again, he STILL won't die. Ash vows to sacrifice, but is substituted for Walnut, who uses his powers combined with the Putties who help in sealing to get rid of Sulphur right then.
The final moments of the game are celebrating Marona and her victory, with an owl giving a toast to Walnut, along with Marona and Castile crying together, among other things. Then, well, it's the post game. I'm not gonna delve into that stuff, since that's dealing with overpowered characters. Maybe in the future. But regardless, what do I think of this plot? A lot of it is just Marona getting jobs, getting ridiculed, and eventually getting accepted. Her overall character is always nice and charming, and everyone just sort of warms up to her. If only there weren't a whole lot of filler chapters, this plot would have actually been excellent. Grade: A-

Music: Well I gotta like violin playing that's done pretty well. Most of the battle themes are excellent, and that's about all I can say for the themes since those are the more memorable ones. It's pretty decent. Grade: B+

Overall Grade: A-

Nippon Ichi did pretty well with Phantom Brave, giving us a 100% hero in Marona and a bunch of other character that warm up to her eventually, despite some potential fillers here and there. The battle system is pretty good, and the amount of customization actually eclipses Soul Nomad & The World Eaters, which is quite a lot. It felt a bit lethargic at times though with the grinding, so I can't say it's absolutely amazing.

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